A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health on 9 May 2022 contained a dramatic finding. This was that when cannabis was legalised for recreational purposes in the state of Washington in 2012, young adults used less alcohol, tobacco and non-prescription pain relievers. In the United States, as you’d expect, young adults constitute the majority of those who consume cannabis.

How the study was done

The study had a title so long that it makes things fail CopyScape, but you can see it here. The University of Washington conducted it. It analysed data from six surveys performed from 2014 to 2019 covering almost 12,500 young adults, ie people aged from 18 to 25. The subjects reported their own activities.

Cannabis is no “gateway drug”

Opponents of cannabis legalisation often make the case that it’s a “gateway drug.” This is one that leads to more usage of harder drugs. This study, however, indicated the opposite. Other studies found the same, including those by the Rand Corporation and the National Academy of Sciences, but more are always welcome.

Paul Armentano is the US deputy director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He summed things up nicely. He remarked that “Real-world data from legalization states” disproved the worn-out canard that cannabis is a “gateway” substance. Cannabis legalisation actually leads to decreased use of other substances.

There’s less binge drinking

A study was published in Addictive Behaviors in 2021. This found that college students in states where cannabis for recreational purposes was legal indulged in binge drinking 6% less. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking as men having five or more drinks in one session, and wimmen having four or more.

There’s less drinking, full stop

A study of almost 100 people undergoing treatment for alcohol misuse was published in Addiction in 2021. This is the journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction. It found that using cannabis enabled the subjects to consume 30% less alcoholic drinks.

There’s less prescription drug use, too

Medicaid is a US programme that helps people with their healthcare costs. In 2022, researchers from Cornell University used its data. They showed that cannabis legalisation led to less use of prescription drugs for anxiety, pain, seizures and sleep. In 2020, in a study published by the Journal of Health Economics, researchers discovered that cannabis legalisation preceded a fall in opioid prescriptions of 11.8%.

But people smoked more dope

There was another study with a title that’s too long. It was by the Universities of Puget Sound and Washington. It was published in 2019. It looked at public wastewater samples from two treatment plants in Western Washington that served 200,000 people. This found cannabis use increased after retail sales began in 2014. The amount of THC, the ingredient of cannabis that makes you high, increased by 9% every quarter from December 2013 to December 2016. Samples were taken on 387 days over these three years.

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